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Wine Matching

  • An Oddbins Peek Into Burgundy

    Following the recent revamp and launch of our new Burgundy range, on 6th July we hosted a Winemakers dinner at the impressive ICA on Pall Mall. Attended by customers, lifestyle press, wine bloggers, some lucky staff and three of the winemakers, it was a night full of gorgeous food, great company and even better wine!

    The night began with guests mingling over glasses of Pol Roger champagne, getting to know each other and becoming increasingly eager about what the night was to offer.

    Everyone then made their way through to the dining room. It looked incredible. We managed to snap a few pics before it was full of people, some of which included our wonderful trio of winemakers, Nicolas, Bernard and Stéphane. Cheeky!

    The dinner kicked off with Angela (our Events Specialist extraordinaire), welcoming everyone to the dinner designed to showcase our dazzling new Burgundy range and show people the passion behind the bottles. Next, Jenny, the buyer responsible for the new range, told everyone tales of her buying trip to the region, the adventures in her little rental and the benefits of Google Translate! Telling her story of discovering these wines and being welcomed into the homes and cellars of our honoured guests, we began to fully understand why these wines were as stand out as we were about to discover.

    Face to face with the menu packed full of wine and food pairings, the room began to get excited.

    The first batch of wines were on the table and ready to be poured, so of course we obliged. We helped ourselves to glasses of Remoissenet Puligny Montrachet 2014 and Roche de Bellene Bourgogne Pinot for starters. One word? Incredible! These exceptional fine wines complemented the first course perfectly. Black fig and taleggio terrine and brioche tuille. We're salivating just thinking about that pairing and yes, it tasted as good as it looked. See!

    A few glasses down (small glasses may we add), and everyone was ready to devour the starter. Potel-Aviron's Bourgogne Aligoté was absolutely perfect with this starter and had a beautiful citrus sweetness. We even overheard someone saying it needed to come with a "warning to be restrained" as it was truly "gluggable"! Our new favourite word for sure.

    Next up was the main event - lamb rump, shallot puree, purple potato and rosemary dauphinoise paired with six of our Burgundies designed to complement this course to perfection. Stéphane took to the stage delivering a wonderful speech and setting everyone up to enjoy the next round. The first wine enjoyed was the robust and sweet Remoissenet Vosne-Romanée. Beautiful.

    "If I was Duke of Burgundy, I would make it illegal to sell Burgundy in supermarkets!" - Bernard Repolt

    As would we Bernard.

    Dessert followed with a rich amaranth mousse with hazelnut crumbs, honey jelly and wild raspberry. It was absolutely divine, and paired with a choice of another round of five of our Burgundies, it was a treat for the taste buds. Sipping on a glass of Collection Bellenum Chambolle-Musigny, we worked our way through the dessert, listened to more fascinating tales from our winemakers and enjoyed conversation about "Oddbins quirky early years", from the legendary Stephen Spurrier. We finished the night tasting the wines we couldn't quite fit into dinner and mingling as the sun went down on the impressive ICA balconies.

    All in all, it was a night spent celebrating our amazing range of new Burgundy wines and sharing our love with everyone in the room for three things. The wonderful evening, the wine and Oddbins.

    "Oddbins is on a roll and I think the Bourgogne roll is the best roll to be on." - Stephen Spurrier

    Pop onto our Facebook page to have a peek at the rest of the photos from the night.

    The Burgundy Winemakers Dinner - Complete Wine List

    Starter Wines

    Marchand-Tawse Côte de Nuits Villages 2013 - £26.00

    Roche de Bellene Bourgogne Pint Noir V.V. 2014 - £16.00

    Remoissenet Puligny Montrachet 2014 - £45.00

    Remoissenet Chablis 'Amiral Vernon' 2014 - 19.00

    Potel-Aviron Bourgogne Aligoté V.V. 2015 - £11.00

    Main Wines

    Remoissenet Vosne-Romanée 2014 - £50.00

    Remoissenet Rully Blanc - £20.00

    Marchand-Tawse Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Perrières 2012 - £55.00

    Justin Girardin Pommard 2014 - £32.00

    Roche de Bellene Chassagne-Montrachet 2014 - £40.00

    Roche de Bellene Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru 2012 - £60.00

    Dessert Wines

    Potel-Aviron Macon-Villages V.V. 2015 - £12.50

    Remoissenet Vosne-Romanée 2014 - £50.00

    Roche de Bellene Meursault - £38.00

    Collection Bellenum Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru 2001 - £50.00

    Justin Girardin Bourgogne Blanc 2014 - £15.00

  • THE PALATE, FASHION FAUX PAS & EVIL

    This week saw the culmination of London Fashion Week and, thank heavens, people now know what to wear again. We’d been running out of ideas and feeling afraid, and had started lashing out with clashing prints, double denim and anything else close to hand. Oddbins’ Managing Director Ayo, however, is bold and doesn’t need such direction. Too bold, some may say, but nonetheless, he stuck to his guns with his red trousers at The Palate Final last Saturday, September 6:
    Some people, like Odd Writer, are Followers, becoming manic and Gollum-like without annual direction from Jean Paul Gaultier. Ayo, however, is not. Neither is Steve Saunders, this year’s winner of The Palate (our annual search for the nation’s finest amateur wine taster). Steve is a fashion leader (not in a sartorial sense, though we do admire his black pinstripe shirt), but in terms of his communication style. When he was asked to do a presentation on why he had paired a pumpkin tart with the Verget Mâcon Bussières 2012, Steve gloriously avoided any prescribed Wine Speak whilst hitting the nail on the head, in a fresh, direct manner. So what did he say? “I chose this particular match as the classic oatmeal and peach characteristics of the Chardonnay went very well with the pumpkin, while the wine's buttery finish complemented the pastry. The subtle hazelnut notes on the finish combined seamlessly with the truffle and, overall, the wine had sufficient weight and texture to cope with the egg filling. Together, both food and wine lifted each other, flavour-wise, to something greater than the sum of their parts.” In almost Churchillian style, this was the speech what won it for Steve, earning him the title of The Palate 2014, a luxury holiday for two to Australia, a magnum or Laurent-Pérrier and an engraved ‘Palate 2014’ decanter.
    Over 21,000 of you entered The Palate (not you, in a Being John Malkovich way; that would be weird) this year and, we have to say, some of the other suggested food and wine matches were memorable. Quarter Finalist Jerome, from Oxford, went wildly left-of-centre with his suggestion of ‘salted aardvark’ with Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2013 and Heather, from Aberdeen, broke new ground with her suggestion, ‘cantaloupe melon carved into the shape of a shark, swimming in a sea of lemon sorbet’. We’re reassured to see that you’re all just as mad as we are. Anyway, if you took part this year, we hope it left you with a renewed sense of how fun and unpretentious wine tasting can be. We reckon runner-up Robert Macaloney, from Glasgow, who won £300 to spend at Oddbins (“which was promptly cashed in the very next day”), summed it up nicely when he said: “I’ve always felt my tasting abilities were very, very average but I surprised myself throughout the competition in that I actually wasn’t too bad at all.”
    OK. You know how we’ve always said how pleasant and modest our Buyer, Ana, is? Yes well she’s not – she’s evil. Ana set the wines for the sparkling wine exam at The Palate Final and included Albert Bichot Crémant de Bourgogne Réserve Privée NV, which is really, really delicious. Just cruel. With its fine bubbles, crisp acidity and inflections of manuka honey and toast, it could easily pass for Champagne and is, therefore, darn tricky to answer questions on. As we say, pure evil. If you want to see just how demonic Ana and the other judges were, just have a look at our blog, and keep an eye on our website for The Palate video. Just have a sofa to hide behind. S’alls we’re saying.

    ‘Til next time.

  • THE PALATE 2014

    The Year of Men, Festivals and Red Trousers

    As he stepped away from the lectern, grinning from ear to ear, Steve Saunders – AKA The Palate 2014 – burst out "s**t, I’ve won a trip to Australia too!" Wine tasting isn't known for being overly emotional, but the fact that Steve was so overcome by winning The Palate title that he forgot all about the holiday, was pretty moving. Practically the only reason we didn’t cry with joy is because we happened to glance at our Managing Director’s trousers, which, as you can see, are very, very red.

    1 L-R Oddbins' Managing Director Ayo and his Trousers; The Palate 2014, Steve Saunders; and The Palate MC, Dave

    Steve has fought off (not physically; he’s a nice guy) over 21,000 hopefuls to win The Palate – our five-month long, wine-stained search to find the nation’s finest amateur wine taster.

    The fact that Steve, a dad-to-be from Bristol, has won is nice for a number of reasons. We’ll number them, because we’re cool like that: 1) He has been considering a career change into the wine industry, so this means a lot to him, 2) He is a man* 3) He did soooooooo much ‘homework’ (yes that means drinking tasting as well as reading) in preparation for The Final and 4) He is really lovely.

    *We aren’t sexist/weird, promise – we’re excited that Steve is a man because The Palate has been won by women for the past two years…

    Steve in full flow at The Final, presenting his food and wine match. Steve in full flow at The Final, presenting his food and wine match

     

    But what set him apart? What swayed the judges’ decision? Well, it was "a combination of incredibly high scores in the written tests and his brilliant presentation style, which was fresh, accurate and from the heart" according to Head Judge and Oddbins Buyer, Ana Sapungiu.

    Having taken in the abundance of prizes he’s won (a luxury holiday for two to Australia, the opportunity to choose a wine for Oddbins’ shelves, a magnum of Laurent-Pérrier Champagne and an engraved decanter), Steve graciously said: “I really had no idea how I’d do – there was such a range of people at the Final – all ages, from all over the country, with different levels of interest in and knowledge of wine.”

    “The Palate has been brilliant. For me, it has really broken down barriers and put a fresh spin on wine tasting."

    To re-cap, in case you’ve missed some of the back story, The Palate kicked off three years ago. 5,000 people took part and it produced a very shocked and humble winner in Fran Evans, from Crouch End. We ramped things up in 2013, with double the number of entrants, and a sassy winner in Chloe Dickson and, now here we stand with over 21, 0000 entrants. Many of these entered in our shops, but, for the first time, thousands entered at Taste of London Festival, The Cheltenham Food and Drink Festival, Northcote Road Fête, as well as farmers markets nationwide. The thinking? To bring competitive wine tasting to you. We want more people to realise, frankly, how easy it is, and to get stuck in.

    Judges Sarah Ahmed, Peter Ricahrds MW, Susie Barrie MW and Ana Sapungiu Judges Sarah Ahmed, Peter Ricahrds MW, Susie Barrie MW and Ana Sapungiu

     

    The process of getting from 21,000 to one winner is not easy, but it went something like this: there were two rounds of blind tastings, with progressively tricky questions about the wines. Just 64 people were left standing for the Semi Final Boot Camps, with four groups of 16, each with their own mentor who would later be a judge at the Final. Newcomer Sarah Ahmed was a fantastic, dynamic mentor, getting into her stride as ‘Tiger Mum’. The mentors’ approaches varied dramatically and they did their best to build their group’s knowledge and tasting skills, before picking four to go forward to be one of the 16 Finalists. As well as wanting to help the Semi Finalists, the fiercely competitive judges each wanted someone from their team to win The Palate, so that was an added incentive to train their mentees to the best of their abilities.

    Held at a swanky pants venue in Bloomsbury Square last Saturday, September 6, the Final was intense, to say the least. Judges Sarah Ahmed, a leading wine writer; wine power couple and MWs Susie Barrie and Peter Richards; and Oddbins Buyer Ana Sapungiu oversaw various challenges, including food and wine matching, blind tastings, oral presentations and a sparkling wine exam. Ranging from toe-curlingly nervous to quietly confident, it was great to see such a range of Finalists. They had varied experience, from beginners to wine tasting enthusiasts, came from far and wide – from Glasgow, Bristol, Brighton, London and Winchester – and ranged in age from 30 to 60.

    4 The Finalists, and Peter Richards MW, a-thinking and a-slurping

    All of which pleases us greatly, because there’s one reason why we do The Palate: to show that wine tasting is not an elite activity – it’s fun and anybody can do it. Anyway, we could wax lyrical about the whys and wherefores, but we’ll skip to the fun bits…

    Peter, who was Steve’s Boot Camp mentor, recited some original, wine-based poetry, while his wife and co-judge Susie busted out some Spice Girls songs. We ain’t kidding. In his blog, Peter attributes this to people’s "hunger to win… which pushed [us into it]" Well, we don’t know if it was the poetry what dunnit but Peter managed to produce a winner in Steve this year, which he was particularly pleased with as Susie has produced winners for the past two years. So, this year, Peter was (mentally) fist-punching the air to have a boy win. Peter said: “It felt sweet to have a boy win! No, of course it doesn’t matter really. The important thing is just giving people confidence. I would say, in that respect, women tend to be less sure than men so, jokes aside, it has been great to see women win The Palate so far and to see their confidence grow and grow.”

    Then there was the dramatic re-count during the eliminations, in which the judges decided to go back and look again at the score of Sue Bennett, who was then put through to the final part of the day. Sue, an Occupational Therapist from Balham, ended up coming second and winning a long weekend in Veneto, Italy, as well as a magnum of Amarone, courtesy of Tenuta Chiccheri.

    Runner-up Sue Bennetts, with her magnum of Amarone from Tenuta Chiccheri Runner-up Sue Bennett, with her magnum of Amarone from Tenuta Chiccheri

     

    Sue, who was under Susie’s tuneful tutelage at the Boot Camp, said: “It was such an amazing day – quite extraordinary. I tried to go in with an open mind and just enjoy the experience – I wasn’t expecting to go far at all, so to come second is incredible. I think I have grown over the course of The Palate.

    “But there isn’t really a right or a wrong with wine – it’s just about showing that you can appreciate the different elements involved, using a certain amount of rationale and creativity – and it’s good that the judging reflected that. Susie’s Boot Camp training definitely helped us to develop in that respect.”

    Sue was followed closely by Laura Martz, from Brighton, and Robert Macaloney, from Glasgow, who were each awarded £300 to spend at Oddbins for winning ‘Most Impressive Performance’. Mark Walker, from Chiswick, received the ‘Most Likely to Grow Further’ prize, winning a novice-professional training course courtesy of the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust (WSET).

    But, aside from the wine tasting, emotional ups and downs and dastardly challenges, there was one thing that really brought everyone together… and that was Ayo’s trousers. Let’s have another look:

    The Red Trousers. And Ayo. The Red Trousers. And Ayo.

    Known in the company for his ‘bold’ fashion choices, Ayo divides opinion. Some welcome the cheerful trousers and devil-may-care attitude to colour coordination, others do not. In his defence, Ayo said: “There’s nothing wrong with red trousers. Can we get back to The Palate please?! My trousers may be bold, but that’s as nothing compared to the effort put in by the Finalists this year.” Smooth segue, Ayo… Anyway, Odd Blogger has no intention of committing career suicide, so instead we’ll hand it over to you, reader, to settle the issue in the comments box below… as he can’t fire you.

    On a safer note, we’ll leave you with a final word from returning Finalist Charlotte Cobb, who wrote to us after the Final, saying: “I learnt so much – last year I wouldn't have been able to name a single grape variety, but this year I felt far more confident. I'm not stopping – I'm going to keep learning, keep going to tastings and do everything to better myself!”

    The mum-of-three, who suffered from a migraine on the day but battled through it anyway, said: “Without The Palate I would never have had the spark to try my hand at this; I would have felt far too dumb and, not being a working woman, I would have felt very out of my depth with all the fantastic contestants you get on The Palate.”

    Well, Charlotte, everybody is capable, you were great and you can do it – go for it!

    This post was written while drinking: Bichot Crémant de Bourgogne Reserve Privée NV. This was a naughty one to put in the sparkling wine exam. Why? It practically passes for Champagne and even our Palate winner, Steve, was gobsmacked to discover that it's from the neighbouring region, Burgundy, and is a lowly £17.50. With a copper and gold-inflected hue, it is unctuous and toasty, with an underpinning crisp acidity.

  • THE FUTURE

    4 July, 2014

    Want to be happy? Get more sauerkraut and Bavarian beer in your life. Yup, the Germans have cast off their ‘joyless image’ according to a recent report by the German Economic Institute, which says they are some of the happiest people in Europe. But who thought the Germans were miserable? With their enthusiastic politeness and practical clothing, you couldn’t find a more optimistic bunch. They live in a country of fairy-tale beauty, they have Michael Fassbender off of X-Men and they have many, many sausages. Of course the Germans are happy! However, it’s not just their national character that is often misunderstood. Their wine is too – but for good reason. They have, hitherto, had a predilection for sweet wines with ornate, baroque-esque labels and indecipherable names that take about a year to pronounce, such as ‘Trockenbeerenauslese Graacher Himmelreich’. However, all that is changing… Willkommen in der zukunft [1].

    Our first German is not a red wine; it’s not a white wine; and it’s not a rosé wine. What it is is Dr Koehler Blanc de Noir 2013 and it is very, very exciting. It is a white wine made from red grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and, as such, is bigger on the palate than your average white. It has incredibly fragrant raspberry and rose flavours that are about as surprising, we imagine, as being a Prime Minister let down by a German Chancellor who had suggested she would back him in his quest to block the election of an EU President. But a much nicer surprise, clearly. Anyway, where were we? Ah yes. So, the only other time you’ll see white wine made out of red grapes is in Champagne, where Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are used to make more full-bodied, richer styles of bubbly. So, essentially, this is pretty far out for the usually traditional Germany. At £12.50, it should have you reaching for your Geld[2] sharpish.

    In the above poster, we tied our vinous colours to the mast. We also annoyed a few England fans, but most people read the disclaimer and saw that we're not actually supporting our football arch rivals... Anyway, we don’t mean to annoy anyone. We’re here to serve up joy! And our next wine does just that. Its name is Villa Wolf Pinot Noir 2012 (£12) and, if you haven’t tried much German red wine, we recommend you begin your journey here. The Germans usually call Pinot Noir ‘Spätburgunder’ but have dropped it this time in favour of the more recognisable Pinot Noir, which reflects the fresh, vibrant, modern style of this wine. In musical terms, they are waving auf wiedersehen to Beethoven and saying hallo to Kraftwerk[3]. Headed up by the dynamic Dr. Loosen, Villa Wolf is a forward-thinking, exciting winery and this spicy cherry Pinot is a cracking example of their Kraft.

    To end our Deutsch wein special, we toss glitter in the air, put on a Marlene Dietrich record and pour ourselves a glass of the über rare Solter Brut Rheingau Riesling Sekt (£18). It’s rare for three reasons: 1) Unusually for Sekt (German sparkling wine), it is made in the same way as Champagne, which is patently a good thing. 2) Whereas most Sekt uses grapes from outside Germany, this Sekt only uses grapes from Rheingau, in southwest Germany, which gives it regional character and higher quality. The resulting wine is of an impeccable standard and this Rheingau Sekt has very fine aromas of peaches and honey, with smooth acidity and soft, come-hither bubbles. 3) It is the only wine in this email that hasn’t been made by a doctor (no easy feat in a country that produces 25,000 doctorates a year and where even the Chancellor has a PhD in physical chemistry). But if the other two wines are the zany academics, this is the talented musician with a twinkle in its eye. In short, it’s your own Marlene Dietrich.

    Tschühüüs.

    ____________________________________________________

    1. Willkommen in der zukunft = welcome to the future
    2. Geld = money
    3. Kraftwerk = nutty electronic music pioneers
  • GET FRUITY

    Just in case you hadn’t noticed, there has been an important arrival recently. We’re not jumping on the Royal Baby bandwagon; we’ll leave that topic to the press who, judging by all their cooing and meaningless speculation, could just have easily been replaced with a flock of pigeons playing “Guess Who?” this week. No, we’re talking about the rebirth of Oddbins.com, soon to be the new king of wine websites. We put an easel outside Oddbins Towers to mark the announcement, but it didn’t quite the reaction of the one outside Buckingham Palace. So we are going to tell you all about it in this edition of Oddnews instead. But enough with baby talk, inspired by the Andy Murray quote used in our last email, in which he announced his hatred of bananas, we are going to ask you to explore your fruity side…
    We cannot condone Barbra Streisand’s wanton fruit wastage, however successful she may be. Surely she must realise that it doesn’t just grow on trees. To teach her the error of her ways we followed her and gathered up the trail of fruit left in her wake. We found not only melons, but also lemons, passionfruits, green apples, gooseberries, lychees and more. The plan was to make a delicious drink combining all these fruits that would change her profligate ways, but then we realised that the smoothie market is pretty much saturated. So instead we found a summery fruit bomb of a wine that already had all these flavours: The Ned Sauvignon Blanc. And to celebrate the launch of our new website, we are running a web exclusive price of £6.66 a bottle on this Kiwi legend. What do think of them apples Barbra?
    In the Chairman Mao quote above, he was addressing revolution and the fact that to understand or change something, you must jump in and experience that thing for yourself. Here at Oddbins we have kick started a revolution in the wine industry and are giving you the chance to jump in and be our wine buyer...Let us take you on a journey… imagine you are sitting on the banks of the Yangtze in Chairman Mao’s home province of Hunan, tucking into the big man’s favourite dish of Hong Shao Rou (red braised pork), surrounded by the towering mist covered Wuling, Xuefeng and Nanling Mountains. On your return home you decide to recreate that delicious holiday dish, but cannot find Shaoxing rice wine, one of the main ingredients, anywhere (please ignore the fact that Shaoxing rice wine is readily available in most Chinese supermarkets, this is a metaphorical journey). If you haven’t brought some of the wine back with you from your holiday, you might well be scuppered. But not anymore...

    Last month our E-Commerce Manager Olivia returned from her holiday in Rio de Janeiro raving about a Brazilian wine she had tried there. We got hold of a bottle of the Aurora Sparkling Moscato, tried it and promptly had an epiphany. Not only is this fruity, honeyed and floral fizz the greatest summer picnic wine ever, but it also made us ask ourselves "how can we get hold of the wines that you guys have fallen in love with on holiday?". So that is what we are doing. If you’ve fallen in love with a wine you tasted on your travels or you are about to head off on holiday, all you have to do is send us a photo of the wine, tell us the name and we will hunt it down. If we like it, we’ll import it, sell it through our website and give you a cut of the profits for finding it. We're calling it The Listing and you can find out more by clicking here. We’re very excited about this and can’t wait to hear from you. We think Chairman Mao might have considered The Listing a great leap forward for the wine industry!

    This is not the first time we have featured a quote from the sockless genius who declined the offer to be the President of Israel, and the more citations we find from him, the more we become convinced that he may have been a bit of a fruit loop. “Why?” you ask, “Surely his four steps to happiness checklist seems completely reasonable?” Nope, he missed one very important factor. The fifth step on the route to happiness is a full wine rack. Imagine how Albert's happiness would’ve shattered across the laboratory floor as soon as he took a rest from scratching out his beloved Mozart and realised there was no wine to quench his thirst. Quite. So to make sure that your happiness is not impeded by an empty wine rack and to mark the launch of our new website, we’ve put together a very special 12 bottle case of our 6 favourite fruity wines of the moment: Oddbins Web Launch Case. It not only includes the world’s first ever semi-sweet Albariño, a Bramley apple flavoured Prosecco, a Claret from one of France’s most cult winemakers (an Englishman no less) and an underrated gem from Périgord, but we’ve also knocked more than £35 off it. There has never been a better or fruitier way to fill your wine rack. Now all you need is a table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin…That’s all from us, but just before we go, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out our new blog post all about fruity summer whiskies: For Peat’s Sake. It’s pretty juicy stuff.

  • EXPLORING SPACE AND WINE

    Inspired by the news this week of Britain’s first official astronaut (although we're not sure what Helen Sharman thinks about this title), for this edition of Oddnews we’ve recruited some spacemen and spacewomen to aid our continuing exploration…

    Major Tim Peake filled in an online application form and soon he’ll be jetting off into space. Well, we have a story almost as crazy…

    Come and take part in a free wine tasting at Oddbins and you could end up jetting off for a 10 day luxury wine holiday for two to Australia and New Zealand, winning wine, attending a wine tasting boot camp and even choosing your own wine for Oddbins' shelves. It can only mean one thing… The Palate 2013, Oddbins’ search for the finest amateur wine taster, is back. To find out more watch our new video here. The first round will take place in all our shops on the weekends of 1-2 and 8-9 June. Wine tasting is fun, easy and anyone can do it. The Palate 2013 could be yours, all you have to do is reach for it.

    We’re pretty jealous of astronauts. How cool would it be to control the robotic arm of a spaceship? Another person that we’re pretty jealous of is Robert Oatley. He pioneered Australian wines around the world turning Rosemount Estate into one of Australia’s most famous wineries, he’s won countless yacht races and been honoured by the Queen for his contribution to the British Empire. He also owns the paradise of Hamilton Island, which the winner of The Palate 2013 will be lucky enough to visit. Just look at the pictures and you’ll want to enter the competition immediately. And as if that wasn’t enough Bob also makes an incredible range of wines. Plucking the best grapes from his vineyards dotted around Australia to make a stunning Shiraz from southern McLaren Vale, a perfect Pinot Noir from Mornington Peninsula and a charming Chardonnay from Margaret River. These bold, balanced and beautiful wines embody everything we love about Australian winemaking. When Oddbins eventually gets its own spaceship, we’re going to invite Robert Oatley to control the robotic arm and bring some wine for the journey.

    We would have thought that drinking before space travel would’ve been illegal, but who are we to argue with NASA and Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to venture into space. What do you think astronauts have for Dutch courage before blast off? If Major Tim needs a suggestion, we’d recommend a classic Campbeltown single malt. With Springbank’s signature complexity, you could spend five months in space with just one bottle and never get bored of it. So many aromas and flavours, each dram is an adventure. For those not familiar with our website, each of our spirits has an alter ego. We currently have the Superman Springbank 10 year old, the Hugh Laurie Springbank 18 year old and the Bob Flowerdew Springbank 12 year old Calvados Wood. If you were looking for a companion to take into space, we imagine Superman would probably get a bit restless being stuck in a spaceship on a long journey, he’s been there and done that. There are no gardens in space and Bob Flowerdew’s ponytail would cause havoc in zero gravity. So taking into account Major Tim’s musical tendencies, we’d plump for the Hugh Laurie Springbank 18 year old. [Disclaimer: Oddbins does not condone drinking whisky before piloting a spacecraft]

    That’s all from us, until next time keep exploring, because as Frank Borman, the first man to fly around the moon, said…

    “Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.”

  • IT'S ALL GREEK TO US

    Kalimera or kalispera, depending on when you open this edition of Oddnews. Regular readers of our blog will be aware that we’ve fallen head over heels for Greek wine this month. If you missed our recent musings on Blogbins, feel free to play catch up by clicking here. To help us explore the joy of our new Greek wine range, we’ve employed a few intrepid explorers. They’re an odd bunch so, be warned, it may be a bumpy ride. For example, Scottish explorer David Livingstone said “I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward”, which must have made the manoeuvres part of his driving test particularly trying…

    For those not up on their explorers, Norwegian Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen led the first expedition to reach the South Pole and was also the first to undisputedly reach the North Pole. He also rocked a particularly stylish bowler hat, though this was probably saved more for exploring the local grocers than for treks across the icy tundra. We like the mantra that “adventure is just bad planning.” But it doesn’t always hold true. Not planning sufficient dessert wine for your dinner party doesn’t make for an adventure, more of a veritable high society travesty, populated solely by extremely disgruntled guests. To avoid just such a situation, we imagine that Mr Amundsen always carried with him a husky sled full of Samos Vin Doux. Dripping with lemon curd, apricot and honey, this sweet little Greek marvel is an extremely versatile pudding wine, just as good with pâté or blue cheese as it is with baked cheesecake or a fruit flan. “Samos” even sounds like something you might shout to order the advance of your husky pack. SAMOS!
    Atma White - £10They’re an unusual lot, these explorers. Don’t get us wrong, we love a peach, maybe not quite as much as Thomas Walker, who lead expeditions into Kentucky and was also the first American to discover and use coal, but we do like them. We think we’d still choose life over shuffling off this mortal coil, even in the absence of peaches. Mainly because we’ve found Apostolos Thymiopoulos’ Atma, which is a glorious white wine, exclusive to Oddbins and made by one of Greece’s rising stars, laced with Amalfi lemons, pears and of course heaps of crisp peaches. Take some of Mr Walker’s beloved coal, fill the barbeque, fire it up, grab some σούβλα (that’s Greek for skewers) and get your souvlaki on. Drizzle with lemon and serve with a glass of Atma, for that’s what makes life truly great.

    Hatzidakis Santorini White - £13.75 & Naoussa Jeunes Vignes - £12.50Sir Hillary must have conquered himself a couple of times on the way up Everest. Do you think he and Tenzing Norgay raced the last bit to see who would be first up? Because we just don’t buy that “they reached the summit together” stuff. The Greeks have also conquered a mountain or two. Despite the trip-hazard of white robes hindering early progress, they turned the volcanoes of Santorini into stunning vineyards. Now Chablis and Sancerre may boast about their minerality, but the Hatzidakis Santorini White puts both French regions to shame with its stony, flinty flavour. Not satisfied with just volcanoes the Greeks then turned the Vermio Mountain range into a vineyard, producing elegantly exquisite, forest fruit-infused wines like our Naoussa Jeunes Vignes. And they did all this without a Sherpa and while wearing sandals. Go Greece!

    That’s all from us, until next time, we’ll leave you with some words from American pioneer and explorer Daniel Boone, which most of us can probably relate to…

    “I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.”

  • DIOGENES, LIZA MINNELLI AND ORSON WELLS

    This edition of Oddnews is quite the hedonistic concoction, we’ve got wine, food, philosophy, singing and dancing. Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and ritual madness, would be very proud of us…

     

    Free Greeks v Romans Wine Tasting

    With an attitude like that, the cynical Diogenes of Sinope probably wasn’t particularly popular around the tavernas of Athens. Normally, we wouldn’t put much stock in the musings of a man who slept in a terracotta pot, but this guy was on to something: there is something really satisfying about free wine. So if you like free wine as much as we do, head to any Oddbins shop after 5pm on Thursday 2 May for a clash of the titans tasting tussle: Greeks versus Romans. We will be throwing two of our barnstorming new Greek wines into the arena to battle it out with two classy Italians. Will 6,500 years of wine making experience give our Hellenic wines the edge or will they be crushed by an unstoppable vinous Roman phalanx [can two wines form a phalanx? – Ed]? Our money is on the underdog Greece. As well as giving us democracy, drama, discus, dolmades and Dionysus, we also have inside information that the six new Greek wines and two new Greek beers hitting our shelves shortly are awesome. But you never know, the Italian-inspired Heartland Dolcetto Lagrein scythed its way through the competition like an angry Russell Crowe, to become the victor of our last gladiatorial tasting event, so they are still in with a fighting chance. Pop your sandals on and come and explore an ancient world with us…

     

    Cabaret Rosé - £9

    The 1972 film version of Cabaret picked up eight Academy Awards, seven BAFTAs and a Golden Globe. Pretty impressive for a musical. But, when it comes to things that drive us wild with desire, it isn’t Liza Minnelli that gets our hearts racing, it is the return of our Cabaret Rosé from Provence. Seriously elegant and dangerously seductive, this rosé picks up IWC Medals for fun and is made by a Master of Wine with a winemaking lineage going back 700 years. Exquisitely delicate strawberry, pink grapefruit, passionfruit and cherry blossom all mingle in the mouth with this one, all we need now is the summer sun. So if you are having trouble finding the perfect rosé, to quote the film Cabaret one more time: “Where are your troubles now? Forgotten!”

    So what’s for lunch? And more importantly what wine are you going to match to it? If that second question leaves you floundering over what to pair with flounder, quailing at the sheer choice of matches for quail, or finding it hard to gauge the perfect partner for greengage, worry no more. Remove all the stress with our new and oh so easy Food and Wine Matcher, conveniently located here on our website.That’s all from us, other than to say that if you were so lost in a whirl of hedonism that you missed Malbec World Day on Wednesday, we have two brand new ones, so you can play catch up here.

  • DOGS, PENGUINS, CHARITY AND MUMS

    Today we want to talk to you about dogs, penguins, charity and your mum. And you thought we were just going to spraff on about wine didn’t you?
    The more observant among you may have seen a little video we put out before Christmas introducing you to a delightful Mexican penguin called Pepita. If you missed it amongst the festive mayhem, fret ye not, because we have managed to twist Pepita’s flipper into writing a guest post for our blog. She recommends our One Ribera del Duero and the exquisite Excellia Blanco Tequila, proving that there is more to penguins than Morgan Freeman and David Attenborough have old us. So if you’ve ever wondered what a Mexican penguin’s views on wines are (and let’s be honest, who hasn’t?), you can read Pepita’s musings by clicking here.

    Last year we released our Wine Not War Châteauneuf du Pape collaboration with War Child, which is still selling strongly; continuing to help this fantastically worthy cause with each sip of wine. We were so inspired by this that we were hungry to do more. So we’ve teamed up with Comic Relief to take part in its Wine Relief campaign this year. We’re donating 10% from the sale of eight or our favourite wines until 15 March 2013. You can check out the wines by clicking here, or by visiting any of our shops. Sorry we got a bit serious there; sometimes it’s better to leave comedy to the professionals.

    You’re a sweetheart, aren’t you? You wouldn’t forget Mother’s Day? Of course you wouldn’t…

    …but just in case, it’s on Sunday 10 March 2013 and we’ve got every angle covered from the very special Hayman’s 1850 Reserve Gin to the classic Ruinart Rosé Champagne: from the unctuous Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximinez Sherry to Henry Pellé’s elegant Sauvignon Blanc from Menetou-Salon. [Or if your mum is like mine, you may want to pick up all four – Ed] Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

    That’s all from us, we leave you with a question from P.G. Wodehouse to ponder:

    “Why do dachshunds wear their ears inside out?”
  • GOING BARKING MAD

    We’re eager to dive into this edition of Oddnews, so join us as we tear into it with the dogged enthusiasm of a blind dog in a meat market…

    Valentine’s Day is next week. Many men will buy their other halves inappropriate underwear in the wrong size. Many men will destroy the romance by complaining that Valentine’s Day is just a ploy to make us consume. Many men will forget to book a table. Many men will just forget. And many women will start to share Charles de Gaulle’s sentiment. Our message is simple; sparkling wine is always a winner. Our cherry blossom and raspberry ice cream scented Antoine Remy Rosé is a stunningly simple way to avoid the dog house. And before we are accused of sexism, ladies please remember that a bottle of the gloriously smooth Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old might be enough to teach an old dog a new trick.

    Watching the BBC’s brilliantly resurrected Food & Drink programme on Monday, we were so filled with joy to see our Quinta dos Roques featured, we would have wagged our tail clean off, if we had one. We’ve been chuffing on about this “elegant and fruity” Portuguese red for a while now, so it is good to see it receive the praise it deserves. Much like Brian May of Queen, winemaker Luis Lourenço gave up a promising career teaching maths to throw himself into his passion. And just like Queen, Luis’ wine will Roques you. Sorry, that was just painfully awful punning. Getting back on track, the point is that on a cold February night, the herby Quinta dos Roques is top dog.

    Have you been wondering what on earth is with all this pooch-related chat? Well thanks for bearing with us. Rather than launch into the full shaggy dog story here, head on over to Blogbins to find out more. Trust us, it's a good read.

    The 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, said “You want a friend in this city? Get a dog!” We say “You want two friends in this city? Get a dog and take it to Oddbins!” And that’s all from us.

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